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Content Marketing // February 1st, 2021

Search Engine Marketing: Basics and Free Tools to Get You Started

Written by Maxwell

What is the first thing you think to do when you have an unanswered question about something?

If you said, “Google it,” you’re not alone. In fact, you’re one of 5.5 billion people who used Google to search something today. To put that number in perspective, Facebook (aka the largest social media network) has 2.6 million users globally: that’s nearly half the number of people using Google every single day. Clearly, search engine marketing (SEM), or the integrated paid and organic strategies that boost a website’s visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs), is a powerful way to get in front of consumers actively searching for solutions.

Did you catch that last part? Consumers on Google are actively searching for solutions. This is important because it’s an opportunity for your brand to step in and be that solution. Let’s start our introduction to search engine marketing basics here:

  1. Perform a Keyword Audit

A keyword audit is essential in identifying what people are searching for related to the product or service you’re selling. Some of the findings will be obvious, but others may surprise you. By taking the time to uncover what questions consumers are asking and information they are seeking, you can identify opportunities for your brand to show up in search results with custom-built solutions. This will boost your brand’s discovery, and help build trust with potential customers right off the bat.

Here’s how you can kick off an audit, free of charge!

  • Use Google Analytics to discover how people are finding and spending time on your website and record your findings. The keywords you find here are a great jumping off point, as they are already working for you whether you knew it or not.
  • Use free tools, like Google Trends, to get the bigger picture. Plug in some keywords to see when searches for that query historically peak, where people are searching that query, and what other related topics people are searching for. Record any findings with promising search intent and relevance to your overall business goals.
  • Categorize keywords into themes. Once you have a bank of potential keywords, organize them into general themes. For example, Maxwell might create themes like “Social Media,” “Public Relations,” “Advertising,” and so on. This will help you stay organized and see the bigger picture.
  1. Identify your Priorities

Your keyword research is going to bring all kinds of interesting opportunities to your attention but remember: don’t try to be everything to everyone. In a world where millions of results can come up for a single search query, it’s important to be strategic about which topics you prioritize and run with.

Get started on prioritization by confirming the efficacy of keywords with free keyword research tools like SEM Rush or even the Google Ads Keyword Planner. These tools can show you how many searches there are for certain keywords every month and how many other websites are ranking for the keyword. For example, if there are very few searches for a keyword but a huge inventory of websites that show up in search engine results pages, you may want to deprioritize that keyword (and vice versa).

Another equally important piece of prioritization is aligning keyword themes with your overall business objectives. Remember: search engine marketing is a tactic leveraged to support an overall business goal. If a business’ goal for the quarter is to support one product, for example, prioritize keywords and themes that will ultimately drive traffic to that product and save everything else for a time in the future when your goals shift.

  1. Get your Search Engine Optimization Right

Now that you have your list of keyword themes finalized, it is time to put some work into your search engine optimization (SEO). SEO encompasses all the organic strategies used to enhance the quality and quantity of website traffic from search engines to your website. With your list of priority topics to target in hand, follow these steps to boost your website’s ranking:

  • Develop content seeded with keywords: take a look at every page on your website for opportunities to weave in keywords related to your priority themes. Create new blogs or other resources to directly solve the questions searchers are asking.
  • Modify your website’s backend to algin with keywords: sprinkle meta data descriptions, title elements and featured snippets with keywords and ensure they are compelling enough to inspire clicks related to your priority themes.
  • Restructure your site for optimal searcher satisfaction: make sure landing pages answer searchers’ questions, are pleasurable to interact with and encourage continued browsing on the site to minimize bounce rates which signals to Google that your site is helpful.
  • Identify and act on offsite SEO opportunities: Google also uses other websites to determine if your website is t worthy of ranking high in search engine results page. The more links to your site from other sources and the more reputable they are, the better offsite SEO you have. Leverage social media, local listings, media, directories and personal relationships to start building links across the web that all lead back to your website.
  1. Explore Advertising Solutions

While SEO is one of the most effective and trusted methods to rank in search engines, the payoff can take a long time. One of the best ways to jump start your website’s discovery is to engage in pay-per-click search ads. From Google to Bing, nearly every search engine provides affordable, scalable advertising solutions.

Setting up paid search can be simple, especially if you’ve already done the heavy lifting of keyword research. Simply identify the keywords you want to bid on, determine the amount you are willing to bid per day for those keywords and write ad copy. From here, the search engine will automatically engage in an auction every time a user searches for a keyword. The winner or winners of the auction are determined by the amount they bid and the relevancy of their website in relation to the user’s search.

Getting your website in front of viewers through paid search advertising is an effective search engine marketing tactic to compliment your SEO efforts. The influx of traffic from the paid search ads will boost your website’s overall quality ranking, as Google will see that people use your website as a resource. This means your organic website will start climbing up the ranks, too.


Search engine marketing can seem daunting, but following these four steps has the potential to greatly boost your brand discovery and support your overall business objectives. If you’re feeling overwhelmed but want to harness the power of search engine marketing, get in touch with our digital experts to build an effective, data-driven strategy customized for your brand and business needs.